From pipelines and the struggles in the forest industry to mental health and addiction issues, the federal election candidates in the Cariboo-Prince George riding were on the hot seat an all-candidates forum in Quesnel on Wednesday night.

It was organized by the Quesnel and District Chamber of Commerce and drew a crowd of about a hundred people at the college.

The candidates were also asked what can be done to combat the crime that is associated with drug abuse.

Todd Doherty is the incumbent Conservative party candidate…

“We have to provide those resources and the capacity for our front line workers, I can’t say it enough. Whether they’re first responders, whether they are social workers, healthcare professionals, we have to make sure we’re doing whatever we can to try to break that cycle. The challenge that we have is that we’ve got a recent bill C-83 that provides needles, a needle exchange, when they are in prison. Even when we were doing the debate we had inmates that wrote us and said when I am incarcerated I am trying to break the cycle of addictions, this is not helping me. Funds have to get to the grassroots level where they matter the most and make the biggest difference and that hasn’t been happening.”

Liberal candidate Tracy Collegeros committed to bringing together the experts in the community to find solutions…

“This problem that is nation wide is intensely personal and site specific. It is very different in Quesnel than it is in Vanderhoof, and than it would be in Vancouver or Toronto, and so the solutions need to come from Quesnel. What I can commit to you as your MP is that I can take that information forward to be able to lobby, to be able to bring back the funds that need to support it. The Federal Government doesn’t know what’s best for Quesnel. Quesnel knows what’s best for Quesnel. But the Federal Government is the one with the purse strings.”

Peoples Party of Canada candidate Jing Lan Yang took a more hard line approach…

“I think I will talk about this issue in two layers. The first is about the crime. Justice needs to be metered out as the crime committed, so we need to have the right punishment for the crime and also, we do not want a revolving door. The second thing, about drug abuse, I think it is very important to give a hand because there are a lot of issues involving people taking the drugs. Rehab is very important.”

NDP candidate Heather Sapergia said one of the keys was housing, and not just sticking someone into an apartment…

“You need to provide in that building social services that are targeted to the particular needs of the people, you need to have mental health counselling, you need to have drug therapy. All of these things come together, it’s not an immediate fix, it’s a long term fix and it costs money. And in Quesnel we need to partner with the provincial government.”

Green Party candidate Mackenzie Kerr said that we need to look at this through a different lense and get to the root cause of the crime…

“I really think it’s bigger than just charging people that are peddling and sitting on the side of the street and throwing them in jail, that is not going to solve the problem. We need to be looking at this with a holistic view. Affordable housing is a huge one, we really need to be investing in this. A mental health strategy is something that we really, really need so we can be bringing our community solutions to the table and be discussing it with rural communities, because our crime problems are not the exact same, and our solutions won’t be the same.”